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A Theory of Proxy Advice when Investors Have Social Goals

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  • UserJohn Matsusaka, USC Gould World_link
  • ClockThursday 11 February 2021, 13:00-14:00
  • HouseOnline.

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Abstract This paper studies the conditions under which the proxy advice market helps and hinders corporate governance. A key assumption is that investors are heterogeneous, with some focusing only on returns while others also have nonpecuniary goals, such as environmental sustainability and protection of human rights. Proxy advisory firms compete for business by choosing a scale of production, price, and “slant” of advice. Heterogeneous demand creates pressure for the market to offer an array of advice, but there is a countervailing force: when demand is sufficiently large, suppliers adopt a “platform” technology and consolidate into a natural monopoly. Under conditions that seem empirically relevant, the platform monopolist slants its advice toward the preferences of investors with non-value-maximizing goals, thereby steering corporate elections away from value maximization. We characterize the conditions under which the proxy advice market succeeds and fails, discuss policy reforms that would help it succeed, and develop normative principles for assessing proxy advice when value maximization is not the sole objective of investors.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Finance Workshop Series series.

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